This is a follow-up to the previous discussion:
Dialogue With an Atheist About Miracles and the Influence of First Premises on One's Methodology and Openness to Evidences and Proofs (vs. "DagoodS")
DagoodS' words will be in blue.
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I thought it would be interesting to try and get some of DagoodS’ thoughts about the Bible, in order to establish more about his hostile presuppositions.
And so I ran across on his blog, a piece entitled, “This Leopard Can’t change its Spots” (6-27-08).
How did he view the Bible as a Christian? Well, there were already many indications and danger signs that he was misinterpreting it even then: so many that I could have easily predicted that he had a good chance of forsaking his faith and going atheist if I had met him ten years ago. He talks about what Christians do, as he observes them now:
“They don’t want to discuss the creation, content or context of the Bible. They want to discuss, ‘I feel.’ They want to discuss their perception of God.”Then he acknowledges that he (the “leopard”) used to do exactly the same:
“I realize, in retrospect, this is exactly what I did as a Christian. Christians wanted Bible study to be, ‘Let’s read a verse and tell each other what we feel about it.’”So now we have one of the hundreds of cases in which a former Christian, who wasn’t adequately informed of his faith when he still had it, projecting his past shortcomings onto most Christians that he meets. He rejected a straw man in the first place and now he fights straw men incessantly in order to justify his decision to abandon the straw man.
This is what we learn in examining deconversion stories. It’s always the same. I’ve yet to find one that is any different (perhaps I will one day if I keep looking hard enough).
DagoodS proceeds to give examples of what he didn’t believe the Bible taught, even as a Christian. He didn’t think it taught equality of the sexes. And sure enough, he didn’t hold (as a Christian) that the condemnation of abortion was taught (directly or indirectly) in the Bible:
“I was squeamish on the topic of abortion. Oh, there are plenty of arguments against abortion without needing to go to the Bible, but when people say, ‘God is against abortion’ I became very, very silent. All the verses regarding God recognizing children in the womb are glorifying his knowledge. There is no specific verse saying ‘deliberate abortion is wrong.’ Inferences and exegetical manhandling—yes. Specifics; no. Without those specifics, I thought it was better to be quiet than find out some day, in heaven, I was wrong.”Wow. Isn’t it strange?! I look at the very same Bible and find about 100 passages (take out the deuterocanonical ones if you must) having to do with abortion in many of its aspects:
today. So he fights against it, to justify his decision to stop believing that it is inspired and infallible.
There is no question whatsoever that the Bible condemns abortion: in many different ways. It defines the preborn child as indeed human and a person, and it forbids murder of persons. Case closed. End of story. That is really all that is required: A+B. Elementary logic. Moreover, when it condemns, e.g., child sacrifice, logically, the preborn are included, since they are considered children as well. It has passages like:
2 Kings 15:16 At that time Men’ahem sacked Tappuah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; because they did not open it to him, therefore he sacked it, and he ripped up all the women in it who were with child.It’s wrong to do such things; therefore, abortion (as an act that is exactly the same in essence: “ripping up” a woman with child) is also wrong. The goal is to murder the child, which is an especially evil and despicable act.
But is this an exercise in logic that was too difficult for DagoodS as a Christian and now? It’s not difficult to grasp these simple logical deductions.
Yet he says, “What I don’t see are Christians who actually know their Bible.”
To use another well-known proverb (like the leopard and its spots): talk about the pot calling the kettle black . . .
What method do you propose I could utilize to objectively determine why I deconverted?
To dialogue with Christians who understand the Bible and Christianity far more than you did before and do now.
Was it for intellectual reasons? Was it because I was angry at God? Was it for moral reasons? Was it because I thought it would be cool? Was it to get the atheist discount card?I concentrate on the first one. It is quite obvious to me that you greatly lacked skills in biblical hermeneutics and exegesis, simply from looking at the conclusions you came to. You could look at the Bible and not see that it condemned abortion. You didn’t get it that Christianity teaches the equality of men and women.
So the problems were in place long ago, and they were primarily what caused you to deconvert, in my opinion, because you believed in a caricature of Christianity and so rejected the same caricature when you found it inadequate. As Hosea 4:6 states (RSV): “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;. . .”
Understand, I am NOT looking for the reasons you think I deconverted.Sorry; already gave them . . . as usual, the atheist despises any analysis of his deconversion, because that is what he hangs his hat on. It’s scary to realize how flimsy the rationales are. They don’t wanna go there . . .
(Because you have the same rationalization problem as a human as I do. And you have significant lack of data, by not knowing me either as a Christian or now.)I know this little tidbit of information that you offered: your atrocious exegesis of the Bible and inability to decipher its contents in areas like abortion. You yourself said such things caused you to start questioning biblical inspiration. It’s not even speculation on my part to note what you said about yourself. And so that is an objective way to analyze your defection: you say there is nothing about abortion; I say there are about 100 passages. You can try to explain all those away if you wish. I won’t hold my breath, given the way you are systematically ignoring dozens of questions and arguments in this combox thread.
I am looking for a method to apply where I can step back, and as objectively as possible determine what motivated me to deconvert.I just gave you one. I’m sure you’re absolutely delighted that I have done so, right?
I will tell you I came up with a method and employed it. But I don’t want to tell you what it is, yet, to prevent tainting your own suggestion.I’m not interested in games and ring-around-the-rosey, but serious analysis and comparison of the plausibility of opposing positions. The abortion-in-the-Bible discussion offers us one of many ways to do so.
Only internet apologists are unsatisfied I was ever a Christian.I have not claimed that and I am an Internet apologist if there ever was one. Calvinism requires that (since it denies that a true Christian can ever fall away from Christianity), and I am not a Calvinist. I wouldn’t have said that as a Protestant, either, because I was an Arminian, and they believe that Christians can fall away and commit apostasy. Therefore, I call you a “former Christian.” Pretty hard to do that if I thought you never were one, ain’t it? It’s possible, of course, that you never were one, but I don’t assert that. I accept your report at face value.
I have said that I think your knowledge of important issues within your Christianity was woefully deficient. In other words, you seem to have had only a poor acquaintance with the apologetics that may have kept you a Christian. It’s why I do what I do. So many times people reject Christianity because they falsely believe that it is something that it is not. My job is to show that it is 1) a great thing; 2) a true thing; and 3) that the reasons in favor of it are far better than those against it.
This causes the Christian to have confidence and to be spared from various counter-influences. And of course within the Christian paradigm I argue that Catholicism is the fullest and most true expression of Christianity.
Generally when dealing with atheists, though, I defend general Christianity and don’t get into Catholic issues unless I am asked something specific about that.
To dialogue with Christians who understand the Bible and Christianity far more than you did before and do now.
Aye…and there’s the rub. I did. I spoke with Pastors and Deacons and Professors and learned men. I spoke with friends I respected, men I revered, and strangers recommended. I spoke in person, through e-mail and on-line. And they were unable to provide satisfactory answers.Then why do you still seek them out? You still think someone out there can convince you to return to Christianity? Are you trying to do the Karl Popper falsification thing? You will always find the answers satisfactory, no matter how good they are. That is the whole point! You do, I believe, because of the reasons I have outlined, not because the answers were always insufficient in and of themselves, or untrue.
Apparently what you are claiming is I spoke to the wrong ones.I have no idea about these people unless I see something concrete. What I have seen myself shows me that you were abysmally ignorant of sensible, proper biblical interpretation, at least in those particular areas. But you refuse to pursue that line of critique, to try to prove me wrong. I’d be happy to go over my hundred or so proofs of the biblical prohibition of abortion (the example I have highlighted), that you claim are actually not there, and therefore that Scripture is wildly eisegeted and mishandled by those with a pro-life agenda that they then wrongly project onto the Bible.
Fair enough. What method do I use to determine who the “correct” Christians who “understand Christianity far better” are, in order for me to dialogue with them?The same one that enabled you to figure out who the best defenders of the Resurrection are. You managed to find those. So you can figure out who the best defenders of Scripture are. But you have to truly interact with them (assuming they have the time and/or interest to do it with you). You can’t skirt and evade the issues and refuse to answer direct questions and ignore direct critiques, as you have been mostly doing with me. People don’t have the patience for that. It has to be a real dialogue.
Considering one Christian group tells me “that particular Christian group” is wrong, yet “that particular Christian group” tells me the first Christian Group is wrong, and they ALL agree the Mormon Christian group is wrong. The Calvinists tell me the non-Calvinist group is wrong; the Protestants tell me the Catholic group is wrong. The Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Charismatics…all bickering and fighting as to who the “correct” group of Christians must be.Yes, that is a real problem, and a major reason I am Catholic, but that is not your immediate issue. That comes later. Right now you need to even be convinced of matters that all these groups (apart from rank heretics like the Mormons who reject historic Christianity) hold in common: does God exist; Who Jesus was, etc. First things first.
But in passing, note that Catholics do not claim to be the sole true or correct group. We claim to be the fullness of Christianity, but we don’t deny for a second that other Christians possess large amounts of Christian truth as well. We’re not like the anti-Catholic Protestants who ridiculously deny that we are Christians at all.
All I am looking for is a method. What method do I use to determine whom I should be dialoguing with?At a bare minimum, If they know their faith well and can offer up halfway decent defenses of it and substantive critiques of your view. If you think I fill these criteria, dialogue with me. If you don’t, find someone else.
And of some humor to me (demonstrating you don’t know me very well)Never said I did, so that is neither here nor there. But I can tell if you don’t know something, when I read statements on your blog that prove that.
the very people I was dialoguing with would agree with your position the Bible teaches men and women are equal. Separate…but equal. The very men I was talking with would whole-heartedly agree the Bible addresses numerous verses toward abortion. Not sure you understand Christianity I came from if you think otherwise.Of course they did. So what? This is a problem in your thinking; not necessarily theirs.
You won’t even tell me what brand of Christian you were, Why not? Maybe you’re like the hostile guy I met at Jon’s meetings. Turns out he was a former Jehovah’s Witness. So he was never a Christian at all.
I was asking you why you think anti-abortion is not taught in the Bible. I think that is a ridiculous position to take. It couldn’t be any more untrue than it is. Keep ignoring the challenge if you must. People reading this will see who had the better argument. They can read my linked paper with the biblical data and compare that to your ignorant bald statement to the contrary and see who knows what they are talking about when it comes to the Bible on that issue.
The problem came when I stopped being convinced by their claims. THAT is the question I am asking; THAT is the method I am looking for. Why did I stop believing their arguments?Lots of reasons, I’m sure.
What method can I use to determine why I was no longer convinced by the arguments I had heard (and employed myself) for decades previous?I have already dealt with that. Talk about concrete issues and deal with them one-by-one.
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Phil Stilwell, another former Christian, wrote:
When I was 7 years old and pleading with god every evening to make sure he had accepted my faith, I was assured by all the christians around me that I was indeed a child of god. After I was 8, I never doubted my salvation…until I actually began to doubt the coherency of the god-myth. When, as an adult, I went door-to-door witnessing and leading people to the lord on my own apart from any church program prompting me to, I was lauded as a fine example of a christian. Now I find christians claiming I was never at any time a real christian. I guess I’m too far removed from that cute 7 year old I once was. It’s rather ridiculous to watch christians desperately attempting to rewrite the histories of apostates, and their own assurances they gave those apostates when they were young. Google “reasons for my deconversion” to learn more about my apostasy.
I don’t have to do any of this, Phil. It is perfectly possible, biblically, that you were a Christian and later fell away. Lots of passages. So I say “former Christian” and speak of apostasy; that means falling away from something actually possessed in the past. “Deconversion,” likewise, refers to converting to one belief away from another. I take the report at face value. I lose nothing in doing that, anyway (from a purely tactical perspective). If you were not in fact, my argument doesn’t suffer from assuming that you were.
This particular argument is with Calvinists. Let them defend their own beliefs. I just wrote a book where I devoted more than a hundred pages refuting TULIP from the Bible. TULIP is a non-biblical tradition of men.
So if someone wants to deny that you or DagoodS or any number of atheists were ever Christians, they should at least be careful to be more precise in their terminology.
My critiques of deconversions don’t have to distort or deny what anyone was before at all. I ain’t fightin’ straw men, but [self-reports about] “former men.” Thus, I am now analyzing what DagoodS says about his past Christian self, and I think I am showing that, though he was a Christian, he was an abysmally ignorant one when it came to understanding the Bible (abortion being our present test case).
So I am taking him at his word and critiquing what he himself tells me he thought as a Christian, and I’m showing that the seeds of his apostasy were already quite apparent. Like I said, if I had known him then, I could have easily posited a real possibility of his falling away, because he wasn’t grounded firmly enough. He didn’t know his apologetics; nor did he know how to properly exegete the Bible. This is what I invariably discover when analyzing deconversion accounts. If it is not the case with you, it’ll be the first time, and I’ll congratulate you for being a pioneer and will buy you a cigar and bottle of wine (being the wine-bibbing Catholic that I am).
Wrong thoughts, bad logic, lack of acqaintance with relevant facts: all of these can eventually cause a lack of faith, or erode a real, true faith, because the mind is always involved in the overall equation. This is why truth and true doctrine (and apologetics) are supremely important. The soul or the heart cannot rejoice and abide by what the mind rejects as false.